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This is suspicious. Just a few days after the House of Representatives voted on an amendment to the 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act that states that the administration must comply with FISA in order to engage in wiretapping, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has begun pressing for Congress to pass a bill that would vastly expand the government's ability to legally eavesdrop on citizens. The bill that the administration is proposing, which they are calling the Intellectual Property Prote...

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The ethics bill that was passed by senate Democrats as their first order of business in the majority is now facing an uphill battle in the House. A key provision in the bill -- one that, in fact, has been called "the defining issue of this bill" -- is being left out. Bundling, a lobbying technique wherein contributions are collected from individual donors by a lobbyist and then given to a lawmaker, may be allowed to remain a secretive practice. The Senate's bill would require that the ide...

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Reid to Force an Up-or-Down Vote on Iraq

May 14, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) announced on the Senate floor today that he is going to try to bring Russ Feingold's (D, WI) bill "to safely redeploy United States troops from Iraq" to a vote tomorrow. I say "try" because Republicans will almost certainly attempt to filibuster this vote which would force all senators to put themselves on record for or against ending the war in Iraq. The bill, which Reid is co-sponsoring, would require that troop withdrawal begins no later than 120 days afte...

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Despite frequent attempts, the Democrats' November election campaigning can't accurately be narrowed down to one issue. The issues varied from race to race. Three issues, however, seem undeniably overarching and common to them all: changing the course of action in Iraq, restoring fiscal responsibility, and ending the "culture of corruption." Progress, however slow and gradual it may be, is being made on the first two issues. The Democrats are working on sending their second attempt at Iraq ...

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Waiting for the Senate

May 10, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

With votes on Iraq done with in the House of Representatives for now, all eyes turn to the Senate, which is not quite ready for all the attention. Iraq and immigration reform, the two legislative battles that are most likely to be remembered of the 110th Congress, are currently held up, behind the scenes, in the Senate's hands. The House is now waiting for the Senate to act on both so that the necessary next steps can be taken and Congress as a whole can move forward. And yet, no plan, for e...

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Supplemental Passes House

May 10, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The supplemental appropriations bill, H.R.2206, passed the House late this afternoon. The bill, nicknamed "the short leash," would provide $43 billion for the war immediately and require the President to report back to Congress in July about progress being made in Iraq before Congree votes again to free up another $53 billion in funds. Here's the roll call. Democrats did not gain any Republican defectors from when they passed H.R.1591, the previous supplemental. Wayne Gilchrest (R, MD) and ...

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Budget Conferees Go to Work

May 10, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Congress is loaded right now. Iraq is at the forefront in the House today, immigration legislation is being contested behind the scenes of the Senate, and underlying it all, major budgeting decisions are being made. Today marks the beginning of the budget resolution conference, the only time this session that members of the House and Senate will formally meet to work out the big picture of federal revenues and expenditures. The budget conference committee is a ten-member group -- five r...

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The new "short leash" plan for Iraq will hit the House floor tomorrow, but a major question about Congress's follow-up Iraq plan still remains unanswered: what's going to happen in the Senate? Earlier in the week, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) was saying that he needed more time to look over the House's plan, and added, "nothing has been ruled out, nothing has been ruled in." Now, the Politico's blog, The Crypt, is reporting that Reid hardly cares what bill the Senate votes on. He just...

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OpenMass: Taking it to the State Level

May 9, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The 10th Amendment states that the federal government is designed to have limited power and that the rest of the powers are "reserved for the States respectively, or to the people." Thus, OpenCongress only provides a part of the picture. However, as an open-source project, we have made our framework available to anyone who wants to start filling in the rest of the picture. We are pleased to announce the first of what we hope will be many such projects: OpenMass, a new site built on the Ope...

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Bush Threatens to Veto the New Iraq Bill

May 9, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The President is being picky about how he wants all that additional war money he requested. Congress is barely beginning to regroup after the last bill was vetoed, and already the President is saying he will veto their new plan, details of which were just released yesterday. The plan, known as the short leash, would provide funds in two separate chunks designed to last two months each. In order to get the second chunk of funds released, the President would have to report back to Congress i...

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The new plan for Iraq, as endorsed by the Democratic leadership in the House, does not include a timetable for troop withdrawal. Instead, Democrats plan to provide funding while keeping some control over the war by dishing out the funds in two-month chunks. On Thursday or Friday, the House will vote to make $42.8 billion immediately available for defense funds and to set aside $52.8 billion for possible release in July. The President will have to report to Congress at that time as to whether o...

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Open House Report Drops Today

May 8, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

After months of online collaboration -- wikiing, blogging, and list-serving -- The Open House Project released its report to members of the House today. From a release coinciding with this morning's press conference on the Hill: >“Americans are communicating with each other in a ‘Web 2.0′ dynamic environment, but Congress is restricted in its online activities by outdated rules implemented when the Web first launched over 10 years ago,” said Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlig...

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Dems Plan to Fund the War Until September

May 7, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The Washington Post this morning is reporting that, despite some reservation in the Senate, the House leadership is planning to move forward with the plan to provide war funding in two two-month chunks: >House Democratic leaders are coming together around legislation that would fund the war through September but would withhold more than half of those funds until July, when Bush would have to report on the Iraqi government's progress toward benchmarks such as quelling sectarian violence, disarm...

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Drug Imports Challenge FDA Bill

May 7, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

When the Senate returns today, it will be a quick series of make-it-or-break-it moments for the bill to reauthorize FDA funding. The bill, which has been reauthorized every five years since its first authorization in 1992, establishes a system that allows the FDA to collect "user fees" from companies that manufacture pharmaceuticals and medical devices in order to fund safety testing and the FDA approval process. These funds are essential to the operation of the FDA, so the bill is consider...

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Lat week, I mentioned a bill introduced by Frank Lautenberg (D, NJ) that would close a loophole that currently allows suspected terrorists to legally purchase guns. Today, the AP is reporting that the NRA has officially come out against the bill: >The National Rifle Association is urging the Bush administration to withdraw its support of a bill that would prohibit suspected terrorists from buying firearms. Backed by the Justice Department, the measure would give the attorney general the discr...

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